How to prepare for your junior recital…

This is a big moment for me, and this blog for that matter. I have been preparing for my junior recital, and that means a lot more than just practicing my material. In some ways this recital carries the weight of two-and-a-half-years of preparation. From the day I started going back to college to learn a “new” instrument, until this present time, I have changed and done so much. Each year I have played, on an average, 150 gigs a year, gone to school full time, worked full time, and practiced as much as I could… I read, I wrote, I watched Mad Men (a lot of MAD MEN!), I made a child (with most of the work being my wife, and the relationship of my son, and wife, earth shattering!), I studied, I procrastinated, I complained…I never cried though. A lot of times I felt so terrible inside that I thought of crying, or ending it all–not my life of course, just the constant beat down that a liberal arts music major might receive and endure on a daily basis. But I never stepped over that threshold, I never asked a teacher, “how am I doing?”. I knew where I wanted to stand, not where I stood, so it didn’t matter if I wasn’t where I wanted to be, it didn’t need to be recognized; it just needed to be overcome.

About nine years ago it was the first night I worked the grill station at a very popular restaurant in town, and it was so much harder, hotter, and busier than any other restaurant I ever worked at–I was nineteen or twenty then, and when I got home, with a nose full of mesquite wood dust, I cried to myself in my grandmothers shower ( I lived with her when I first moved into town okaaaay!). It was like this movie moment where you really start to feel empathy for the character and he is doubled over, black snot running down his face like the end of a bad Jersey Shore party, the sound of the shower and sobbing in the distance looms as the camera slowly pans to the struggling human. Then, something changes in your heart: you realize that the character is such a baby! You want to smack him right?! That was me smacking me for the last two years! I would get so incredibly insecure and crave affirmation, affirmation that really couldn’t matter to me, it wouldn’t make me a better player! That affirmation would only matter to me when I knew in my own heart how I stood. And here I stand. I sound good. I sound fine, I suppose. Am I as amazing as I wish I was? In some ways yes–it’s all relative. I started this journey to play with a bow. I can play with a bow. I have better intonation than I ever thought I would have, and sometimes, just sometimes, I sound like a cello and a bass, and it’s beautiful. I get lost in the sound, and that, that was the goal! Every thing from here on out is just for fun. I have reached far beyond my expectations (I may have some new expectations, but it is very nice to realize what I initially imagined playing, and sounding like when I started, and how I play now) but they should be enjoyed in a that manner. They don’t define me. Nothing like that can.

So, long story short: I am preparing for my junior recital, which is tomorrow, by getting home from a funk gig opening for Cyril Neville with the Big Caboose, having  some Ardbeg Scotch (Thanks Noah), and listening to Keith Jarrett’s “The Koln Concert”, which, by the way, is the best album ever. I am not nervous, but excited that I get to perform for my friends and family–for none of them have heard me play like this. It is going to be great, no matter how it turns out!